Fairfield County could receive up to $4.2M from American Rescue Plan

WINNSBORO – County and Town officials haven’t yet received official word, but, in total, they are in line for millions of dollars from the recently signed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The county would likely qualify for up to $4.2 million in federal assistance through the $1.9 trillion program; the Town of Winnsboro is estimated to receive $1.19 million; Ridgeway, $0.11 million and Jenkinsville, $0.02 million.

While fairly broad guidelines are available as to how towns can spend the money, the S.C. Municipal Association has cautioned towns against spending the money until more specific guidelines are in place. Misspending the funds could result in having to repay them.

Grant allocations for towns under 50,000, including Winnsboro, Ridgeway and Jenkinsville, are based on population size.

The full bill, signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this month, totals $1.9 trillion in spending. About $45 billion of that is earmarked for larger cities, but those with a population under 50,000, will pull from an allocation of just under $20 billion.

Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy said town officials have earmarked the town’s portion of the funds for long overdue improvements in its utility billing system.

“We would like to spend the the money on an automated meter reader project that will cost between one and two million dollars,” Gaddy said. “It would be a marked improvement for our citizens and for the town.”

Taylor said the county’s money would be split up into two annual payments of about $2.1 million per year. However, he cautioned that the federal government has said little regarding how, specifically, the money could or couldn’t be spent.

For example, one likely condition of receiving federal aid is that the county wouldn’t be allowed to furlough employees, he said.

“Sometimes there are things that you cannot do with your staff. You have to keep your staff whole,” Taylor said. “We need to find some of the details on [how we can spend] the rescue money.”

What are, in general, the allowable uses of the funds?

COVID-19 public health emergencies and the economic impact they cause can be addressed with the funds, as is assistance for households, small businesses and non-profits. Aid can be offered to industries impacted by the pandemic (specifically the tourism and hospitality industries). The funds can help support extra pay for essential workers, though the extra funds will have a cap of around $25,000. Grants can be given out of the money to companies with employees that perform essential duties.

Cities themselves can offset their losses from the pandemic, including lost funds from property taxes and hospitality and accommodations revenue. Improving infrastructure, including water, sewer and broadband are also allowed.

Funds may not be used to cut taxes.

The towns and the county are slated to receive half their allocation within the next 60 days and another half within a year.

The money will be administered by the State of South Carolina. Neither the county’s mayors nor Taylor have received official word from the federal government about their payouts, but said the total cited is an estimate provided by the Municipal and County Associations.

Funds must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.

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